FORT BENNING, Ga. — Fort Benning honored the life and service of Pvt. Felix Hall August 3, 2021, during the unveiling of a historical marker at Eubanks Field.
“Today, many Georgians are joined by volunteers from across the country — people of different races, ethnicities, creeds, genders and backgrounds — to serve in our Armed Forces at Fort Benning, as well as the many other military installations in our great state, across the country and around the world,” Georgia Rep. Sanford Bishop said. “Though Pvt. Hall was taken from us decades ago, this wound has been open for far too long. Thank God, today we are coming to heal.”
On February 12, 1941, Hall was seen alive for the last time. He was officially declared a deserter one month after his disappearance. His body was discovered March 28 in a wooded area by a regiment training in the area.
Hall was found hanged by the neck, his hands and feet bound. Authorities declared his death a homicide April 8, but the motive behind the lynching was never officially stated and the case remained unsolved following a 17-month Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry.
Originally from Millwood, Alabama, Hall enlisted in the U.S. Army on August 1940 as an infantryman with the 24th Infantry Regiment at Fort Benning. The 24th Infantry Regiment (Colored) was formed during 1866 to support the Indian Territory campaigns, Spanish American War and the Philippine insurrection. Officially dubbed “Deuce Four,” the regiment was relocated to Fort Benning in 1922 before being brought back to an active status in March of 1940 to prepare for World War II.
Hall’s death, combined with other events over the next seven years, convinced President Truman to take action and officially desegregate the Armed Forces on July 26, 1948, with the enactment of Executive Order 9981.
“Since then, as a Nation, we’ve made incredible progress,” Lt. Gen. Theodore Martin, Commanding General, U.S. Army Combined Arms Center said. “But we can’t be satisfied until we have a generation that fully represents all elements of our population, serving this country in uniform that can look at the marker we will unveil, and say to themselves, ‘Never again in my country, never again in my Army.’”
For the Soldiers of Fort Benning, the marker will serve as a reminder that racism is a constant challenge that we must confront on the field of battle for the betterment of our country.
“We are training a new generation of Soldiers who will be stronger for knowing about Pvt. Hall,” Bishop said. “They will be armed to confront our foes whether they seek to tear us apart with bullets or with bigotry.”